Pleased to be woken up by my alarm and not the front desk, this day started with a more fulsome breakfast and coffee. We boarded our bus at 8:30am on our way to the Golden Circle. A loop covering about 300 km from Reykjavík into central Iceland and back. The 3 primary stops on the route are the National Park Þingvellir, the waterfall Gullfoss (meaning "golden falls"), and the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur, which contains the geysers Geysir and Strokkur. Though Geysir has been inactive for a long time, Strokkur, on the other hand, continues to erupt at every 5–10 minutes intervals. The natural geological wonders of Iceland.
The guide was awesome and filled my head with stories and loads of useless facts about Iceland. What really started to peak my interest was the vast resource of geothermal energy this country has. It is endless. Basically all of Iceland's power and heat is free, and very, very "green". The geothermal activity is due to the special geological location of Iceland (over a rift in continental plates) and the high concentration of volcanoes in the area. Five major geothermal power plants exist in Iceland, which produce approximately 26.2% of the nation's electricity (two of these are owned by a Canadian based firm). Geothermal heating meets the heating and hot water requirements of approximately 87% of all buildings in Iceland. Being an energy girl I truly find this fascinating. If they could just figure out a battery that didn't require rare earth materials to make and could store large quantities of power this little country would be a super power. There is actually been discussion of building an under ocean power line to Scotland (over 1200 km of line).
After a quick stop at Þingvellir (where we snorkelled yesterday), we continued on to Haukadalur, watched Strokkur erupt and wandered past several bubbling puddles before boarding the bus onto to Gullfoss. The falls are comprised of a wide curved three-step "staircase" and then abruptly plunge in two stages into a crevice 32 m (105 ft) deep. It was here we witnessed the Icelandic poor man's photography session. Picture this, man in tux, girl in pink STRAPLESS dress, camera on tripod and snow. Man sets camera, pushes timer, runs to girl, pose. Repeat. I have witnessed some odd moments but this one is up there in the ordinals for sure.
After witnessing the photo session we headed to the next stop Langjökull (Icelandic for "long glacier") the second largest ice cap in Iceland. This required a change of bus and a hour or so of traveling over a moonscape like terrain (except the snow cover) until we arrived at our snowmobiles. We were outfitted with helmets and snowsuits and off over the glacier we raced. It was awesome and beautiful (and only one jackass flipped his sled over, he was not popular with his wife, albeit she was much more refrained than I would have been had Ger done it).
After an afternoon of sledding we returned to our bus and back Reykjavik for our final dinner in Iceland. Greenpeacers stop reading here. There are several Icelandic delicacies. Lamb is popular which we had at dinner the night before. Skyr, which we thought was yogurt, but is actually a type of soft cheese, made from gelatinous milk curds, was pretty good. Meat soup another local favorite, I tried one lunch and mine was made with lamb (checked two boxes). Fish is ample and any fish is popular and pretty damn amazing.
The more unconventional favourites include horse (didn't try), Svið (Singed and boiled Sheep Head) (nope didn't try this either) and Hákarl (Shark). The shark we had heard lots about, basically that is was rotten. Anyways turns out fresh shark would be highly poisonous, but after curing it is only slightly poisonous. Curing is done by burying it under the ground for 6-12 weeks, then hanging it to dry and ferment for four to five months. Regardless I didn't try it. I did however try Minke Whale, and it was delicious.
The only regret for food I didn't get to try was the famous hot dog. They contain lamb which gives them an unusual flavour, but apparently the magic is in the sauces. A real Icelandic hot dog is served með öllu, with everything on it, which means ketchup, a sweet brown mustard, raw onions, fried onions, and remoulade (a sauce made with mayonnaise and relish). As i missed the hotdog I bought a bottle of mystery Icelandic hot dog sauce for home.
(We also brought a large bottle of Reyka, one of the local vodka's that gives Grey Goose a run for their money for being smooth.
Useless fact, you have noticed the strange letters (I am copy and pasting them from the internet since I have no idea how to turn my keyboard into Icelandic). The Icelandic alphabet has 10 extra letters and a bunch of strange accents. It makes for fascinating and foreign signs fortunately everyone in Iceland speaks English, fluently.
After a great dinner, we headed back for another nightcap (and for me to deal with a trade working from Iceland was fun) and one more sleep before our final day.